Frozen ground: bad news for gardeners, good news for walkers

In sharp contrast to the other week week, overnight temperatures have fallen leading to night time frost, while temperatures have struggled to get above freezing even during the day. The result is cold but dry weather, which really firms up the ground.
The distinctive pine trees of Lady Hill in Wensleydale between Aysgarth and Askrigg.  Picture Bruce RollinsonThe distinctive pine trees of Lady Hill in Wensleydale between Aysgarth and Askrigg.  Picture Bruce Rollinson
The distinctive pine trees of Lady Hill in Wensleydale between Aysgarth and Askrigg. Picture Bruce Rollinson

I am becoming very aware of the season rolling on. I return full time to Reedley at the beginning of March, and quite a bit of stuff is getting near ready for sale ... just a little longer I think. But with the ground frozen, there is little to do in the garden at present apart from dream and plan from the comfort of your fireside. I will keep you up to speed as the month progresses.

While frozen ground can be frustrating from a gardening perspective, for the rambler it represents great news. With boggy ground firmed up, hill tops capped with snow and cattle locked safely away in warm barns, whole tracts of countryside are suddenly there to be explored without having to run the combined gauntlet of glutinous ground and stampeding bovines.

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I came up with the idea of Wensleydale to walk a section of ground I had always fancied, linking Askrigg, location of Skeldale House in James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great And Small” and Aysgarth Falls near Carperby where the real life Herriots honeymooned in the 1930s at what my research suggested could be a perfect venue for researching the products of the traditional craft brewer over lunch. It took longer to get there than I hoped, and so settled for driving through Askrigg, and starting our walk at Nappa a mile further east. We emerged into a stiff northerly breeze. We followed the ice sheathed track east into the teeth of an icy wind, but as we crunched our way across the snowy ground, the views down Wensleydale towards Middleham were stunning. With proper gear on this was winter walking as it should be. Cold but dry, icy but clear and no mud.

Losing height, we fell below the snow line to wonder at the tough breeds of sheep that populate this harsh land. Gathered round the generous heaps of hay and roots they seemed oblivious to the biting wind.

Wifey now likes to navigate using the iPad which has OS maps for most of northern England. I hadn’t mentioned Carperby and the pub. Suddenly it dawned on her we were to lunch in front of roaring log fires, eating the finest food washed down with quality ale. Suddenly, there was a new spring in her step as she boldly led us on with unerring accuracy. Using cutting edge digital satellite navigational technology, we crossed moor and field, hill and dale to enter Carperby with its old market cross. Here was warmth, sanctuary and sustenance ... except it was shut.

It was a less than impressed Wifey I guided to Aysgarth Falls to the cafe and pub. They too were shut. That put a damper on our day, but though pleasant the riverside/old railway path was not as mapped requiring something of an act of faith to trust it would get us where we wanted to go. Straddling barbed wire and negotiating a dodgy route, we emerged tired and hungry back at the car.

Heading back to Hawes, I announced: “Let’s go to the chippy”. We were suddenly given a new lease of life only to be greeted with ... “they don’t open while five!”

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